Three arrested in Modesto store shooting; daughter critical

January 25, 2011 

UPDATE, 1:26 p.m.: Modesto police detectives arrested three known gang members late Tuesday night on suspicion of shooting to death a store owner and his wife, and critically injuring their daughter.

Oloth Phommahaxay, 18, and a 16- and 15-year-old all were arrested on suspicion of two counts of murder, one count of attempted murder and a gang enhancement.

All three are Modesto residents.

Detectives are still working on determining a motive for the shooting.

Family members identified the victims as Vanh and Phouvieng Thammavongsa of Modesto. They gathered this morning in prayer at the west Modesto home of the Thammavongsas.

We'll have more on the family and the investigation later today.

UPDATE, 9:47 a.m.: The daughter of a man and wife killed Tuesday in their Modesto market remained in critical condition this morning as investigators searched for clues into the shooting.

Modesto police have not released the names of the victims, only saying those shot inside V and V Oriental Market on Yosemite Boulevard were the store owner, his wife and their daughter.

Public records show the owner of the store is Vanh Thammavongsa.

Three people were detained in Ceres a short time after shooting. Sgt. Rick Armendariz, a Modesto Police Department spokesman, did not say this morning if they had been arrested.

The market was closed this morning, and a look inside showed aisles lined with shelves stocked with food and other products. One display appeared to have been knocked over.

One passer-by this morning, Crystal Perez, 26, was a frequent customer. She lives in the Gospel Mission homeless shelter just north of the unassuming store.

She said she and boyfriend would go there often to buy their favorite coconut drink.

“She always gave you deals,” Perez said. “She would give my daughter these mango gelatin candies for free whether we bought something or not.”

The said the wife generally helped the customers, while the husband would work in the back of the store. She didn’t recall seeing the daughter much.

Perez also said the family was kind to the homeless, allowing them to sit on a small cement ledge attached to the storefront when others in the area wouldn’t.

“A lot of these people don’t like the homeless sitting here, but they didn’t mind at all,” Perez said. “They never judged anybody.”

A married couple was killed and their daughter was seriously injured in a "brazen" shooting Tuesday afternoon at their family-owned market on Yosemite Boulevard in Modesto.

Shortly after the shooting, police caught up to a vehicle believed to have been involved. Investigators were questioning two boys and one man found in the sport utility vehicle late Tuesday, but they had not been arrested.

The shooting was reported just before 2 p.m. at V and V Market in the 1300 block of Yosemite, east of Santa Cruz Avenue. Officers arrived and found the man dead inside the market, said Modesto police Sgt. Rick Armendariz.

The man's wife and their daughter were found injured at the market and taken by ambulance to a hospital, where the wife later died.

The man appeared to be in his late 50s or early 60s. His wife appeared to be in her mid-50s. The woman in critical condition is in her mid-20s, Armendariz said.

Police did not release the victims' names. There were no other injuries reported, and it was unclear whether there were customers in the market.

Police immediately alerted neighboring law enforcement agencies about the shooting and gave them a description of the suspect vehicle. Ceres police spotted an SUV matching that description at Mitchell and Hatch roads, a few miles south of the market.

Police stopped a green Honda and found two boys and a man of Asian descent inside.

"We do believe the vehicle stopped was the one that fled the scene of the shooting," Armendariz said.

It was unclear whether investigators found weapons in the SUV. Armendariz said investigators were in the process of obtaining a search warrant to collect evidence from the SUV.

He said it appeared that the incident occurred inside the market. Investigators, however, marked areas inside and outside a furniture store next to the market.

The evidence markings could indicate that shell casings or bullet holes were found, Armendariz said, but it did not appear the Furniture Niyme store was involved in the shooting.

Later, a firetruck was called so investigators could use its ladder to get a look from above and search for evidence on the roofs of the buildings.

Calls to several businesses next to the market went unanswered or were forwarded to answering machines. Employees at other nearby businesses and passers-by said they didn't hear gunshots over the sound of the traffic on Yosemite.

Armendariz said all the "key witnesses" were taken to the Police Department to be interviewed.

About 30 minutes before the shooting, a woman was walking on Yosemite across the street from the market. She said she noticed a group of people arguing outside the market.

"They looked Asian, and they were arguing, really loud," the woman said. "I just kept walking. I was down the street when I heard a pop. I thought it was just a car backfiring, so I kept walking."

Investigators took the woman aside and questioned her about what she saw.

Na Luangrath said he's a regular customer at V and V Market and has known the owners for about

20 years. He said a married couple runs the store with help from their adult daughter.

He said the family is Laotian and the market sells Asian products and food, but the business does not have a sign with its name posted outside. Nevertheless, Luangrath said the market receives a steady stream of loyal customers.

"They're really nice people,"

Luangrath said. "I would stop by the market all the time after work, just to say hello. I was just there on Saturday, and now this happens."

He knows the couple and their daughter only by first name. Luangrath said the husband and wife were killed in the shooting and their daughter was being treated at the hospital. Police could not confirm that.

Luangrath said the married couple sometimes created a tab for customers so they could pay later. He said the family business was never victimized by a serious crime, such as robbery.

"I'm really shocked," Luangrath said. "I couldn't believe it when they told me what happened."

Aleo John Pontillo owns AJ's Bail Bonds, which is directly across the street from the market. He wasn't at his business when the shooting occurred, but he said he has known the family who owns the market for at least 10 years.

Pontillo said the husband and wife were kind to customers and cared for their adult daughter, who is autistic.

"They're beautiful people," Pontillo said. "When you went in there, they treated you really nice."

He said the place has been vandalized before with its windows broken, but he didn't remember ever hearing about a robbery.

Police did not release details about a possible motive for the shooting.

"It's too early to know whether this was a robbery, gang-related or a family dispute," Armendariz said. "This was a brazen, horrific shooting, and we're still trying to process this complex (crime) scene."

Bee staff writer Rosalio Ahumadacan be reached at or 578-2394.

Video from the scene. Raw video from scene below.

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